Wintery homes downtown Denver Colorado skyscrapers with Rocky Mountains

The snow covered Longs Peak and the Rocky Mountains stand behind Downtown Denver skyscrapers, hotels, office and apartment buildings with homes and condos in the foreground. (Stock image) 

Denver City Council on Tuesday night approved a handful of resolutions for aid to renters in financial crisis. One resolution, from the Finance and Governance Committee, accepts more than $21.8 million in federal emergency rent assistance funds received by Denver for households affected by the pandemic’s economic damage.

Congress approved $25 billion for emergency rent assistance at the end of December.

Denver can use 90% of the funds received for housing-related expenses such as rent and utilities, including back expenses owed, and 10% for housing stability services and administrative costs.

The council also approved an agreement with Colorado Legal Services for eviction legal assistance to households. The contract is worth more than $1.1 million and runs through 2023. Colorado Legal Services is the statewide civil legal aid organization for low-income people.

These two resolutions were approved unanimously by the council in a block vote. District 3 Councilmember Jamie Torres and District 10 Councilmember Chris Hinds were not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

At-large Councilmember Debbie Ortega abstained from voting on a third rental assistance measure, saying she sits on the board of a subcontractor with one of the city contract parties. The agreement is for $1.5 million between the Department of Housing Stability and Northeast Denver Housing Assistance to provide emergency rent and utility assistance to households earning up to 80% of the area median income.

The funding will provide aid to an estimated 310 unique households, says the filed resolution.

With Ortega’s abstention, the council passed the resolution with 10 “yes” votes.

The council also approved an expansion of a contract with Hitachi Vantara for maintenance and possible purchase of new cameras for Denver Police’s HALO surveillance system. The resolution extends the contract through 2021 and adds $144,200 for a total value of $2,447,569.

Councilmember Candi CdeBaca cast the single dissenting vote, for a total vote tally of 10 to 1. She said she has not received data she has sought to show Denver’s return on investment for the HALO system.

“Until we have specific data in our high-crime areas proving they're effective, I think we should be considering alternative technologies,” she said.

Denver has used the HALO surveillance system since 2008, according to the filed resolution. Video footage is used for purposes such as evidence in criminal prosecutions, in lawsuits brought against Denver and for officer training, it says.

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